Bats Ridge lies approx 10km west of Portland, Vic. Portland is approx 350km west of Melbourne. A low east-west ridge of tertiary (young, soft) limestone, length a few km, contains horizontal maze caves. The western half of the ridge is a public reserve, with several nice, well-used caves. The eastern half is private land, with much lower visitation. I have a good access relationship with the owner. We drive onto the property and park near the cave entrance.
A few years ago I decided to pick up exploration, which had ceased around 1982, on the private property. Three major caves existed, with lengths from 200m to 700m. My work, assisted by many VSA members, has led to the extension, interlinking and surveying of these caves, and some others nearby. The length of the combined entity, now known as Davies Cave, currently stands at 3500m, making it the easily the longest in Victoria.
The cave is the most productive exploration front in this state: most visits have yielded new passages. Whenever this has not happened, we have nevertheless made progress in understanding the cave and its potential, always preparing the ground for discoveries on the next trip. I expect to find yet more new parts of the cave, possibly major extensions.
The caving is horizontal, often low and crawly, mainly dry, and generally easy. While the cave is suitable for beginners, I do not provide equipment, except for surveying and digging. The trips to this cave are working trips (pushing, digging, surveying) rather than just fun/sightseeing, but you will see nice cave scenery. There are some medium-sized chambers and some nice decoration. Some areas are rather unstable: care is required. Our modus operandi is to make multiple sorties into different areas of the cave, going frequently in & out, which makes snack-breaks, drink breaks, toilet breaks, battery-change breaks very easy. At no time are we more than 20 minutes from an exit, so we generally don’t (all) carry packs. However, we do carry spare lights and water. We will dig (surface and underground), explore and survey. We will have lots of fun, but go home tired.
Friday is not a caving day, but we find it best to drive Melbourne-to-Portland on Friday evening (after work), arriving quite late but enabling an early-ish start on the Saturday. We return Portland-to-Melbourne on Sunday afternoon/evening, departing as early or late as you wish. We don’t all have our own transport, so for that reason, and simply for economy, we usually share cars.
On Friday night we arrive at various times, some quite late, so eat dinner on the way. On Saturday night we usually eat in the pub, but, just in case we’re too late (unlikely), bring easy-to-cook dinner. Alternatively, there are other restaurants, take-aways and junk-food outlets, and a supermarket. Bring Sat & Sun breakfast. Bring Sat & Sun snack lunch to eat outside the caves, and drinks.
Accommodation is in a self-contained en-suite cabin with good cooking facilities on a well-equipped cabin park in central Portland. Bed linen & pillows are provided. For the numbers on these trips (up to 5 or 6 persons) we fit into one cabin. Cost works out approx $30.00 per person per night (we are there for 2 nights). I will book, and partially pay, for us all in advance. Hence I need firm commitment.
The cabin park is Portland Holiday Village, 37 Percy Street, Portland Vic 3305.
M1: Mel – Geelong Bypass. Exit from freeway onto B140 Hamilton Highway.
B140: Geelong – Mortlake. Just through Mortlake take B120 Hopkins Highway on left.
B120: Mortlake – Warrnambool. In Warrnambool turn right onto A1 Princes Hwy. (There is a handy bypass of Warrnambool, but it’s too hard to describe – find it yourself if you wish).
A1: Warrnambool – Portland. As you drive south into Portland on Percy Street, pass through the one signalised intersection, go to the next roundabout and turn right onto Julia St, and after 100m turn left into Cabin Park (signed). Drive around to locate our cabin.
I will provide our cabin number before the trip, or phone me as you arrive for that information.